Sunday, May 17, 2015

Politics is a game of perception.

I am a keen observer and follower of politics, it amuses me, surprises me and many unpredictable things associated with it keeps me interested in it. Whether we take interest in politics or not but it is true for most of us that politics and political decisions taken by various governments do affect our life directly or indirectly. I think there are very few among us who can claim to be immune from politics and political environment around us. One can see the effect of this most during any major election, like presidential election in US or general elections in India. During some of recent elections one noticeable difference in style of election campaign of various candidates (in US) and political parties (in India) is that now a days they use lot of data and statistics to push their agenda. Still they use lot of rhetoric during their election speeches during which various leaders promise whatever they can think of without even bothering to check if they can fulfill them or not. I think during election campaign the main focus is to win the election by making whatever promises it takes to win it, whoever is successful in making people believe in their program wins the votes and hence the elections. It becomes very important for candidates and their political parties to create a perception in voter's mind that they can deliver better than their opponents. They all claim that they only have capacity to deliver and their opponents are not good option to consider, so in the end it becomes a game of perception.

One very good example of this was recent general election of 2014 in India, BJP and its PM candidate Mr. Narendra Modi successfully managed to create a perception that Gujarat model of development is immensely successful model and it can be easily replicated in rest of India. They started really early and carried out very aggressive PR campaign to spread this message with use of data which suited their argument and people really believed in it. Other parties fighting elections against them including UPA which was in power tried to challenge this by putting some figures and data but it was too late by that time perception of successful Gujarat model was already created in people's mind and it was difficult to break it. Many corruption cases which were discovered during UPA-2 rule are still going on in court, so far no one has been charged or convicted in any of them but there is a perception that UPA-2 was most corrupt government India ever had and no one is interested in real data or statistics to check if this is true or not, people just believe that it was the most corrupt government. I think Congress learned its lesson during last general elections, they also realized how it is important to build certain perception in people's mind and if they can do same thing to BJP which BJP did to them during last elections their job to cover the lost ground might become easy. They are trying to use the issue of 'land acquisition bill' against current NDA government and Mr. Modi, they want to paint the image of this government as 'anti-farmer'.  I think they are somewhat successful in this attempt and their aggressive stand on this issue had put this government on a back foot. Now whether Congress and its leaders are right in accusing this government as anti-farmer, whether they have any data to prove their claims or not, these things are not important. No one is even asking these questions, government is trying hard to put some data to show that it is not their fault that farmer's are committing suicide but it seems no one is ready to listen as perception is already created that this government is pro-corporate and anti-farmer.

Actually this game of perception is very good for political parties to win elections but it is very bad for voters and people of that country. Because while playing this game political parties try to take advantage of certain current political scandals or issues to build certain positive image of themselves and negative image of their opponents. Once they do this they don't have to do much to win the elections, they don't even have to propose any concrete plan to resolve the issues just hollow election promises and grand speeches by their star leaders are enough. In this whole game voters are ultimate loosers as they sometimes go with X party and sometimes with Y party without any substantial change in their own fortunes. I hope slowly voters understand this trick used by most of political parties to fool or misguide them and educate themselves with real facts using various tools which now they have at their disposal. Once they start making choice based on information rather than perceptions then I am sure these political leaders and parties will also be forced to change their campaign style. Then we might expect to have more meaningful political debates and discussions, but until then let's keep on fighting the battle against this game of perceptions with a hope that we can minimize the effect of false perceptions during election campaigns.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

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